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Emerging Drug Threats: Right Under our Noses

Emerging Drug Threats: Right Under our Noses

June 27, 2012

Recently, I was part of a coalition that developed a fairly comprehensive toolkit on prescription drug abuse. I’ve since been fortunate to have the opportunity to travel throughout Wisconsin giving presentations on prescription drug abuse, and for each of these I start with the question, “When you hear the words ‘drug abuse,’ what drugs come to mind?”

Answers I always get include: marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other street drugs, but people never think of listing prescription drugs. Unfortunately, we can now also add a suite of new designer drugs to the list – synthetic drugs like K2/Spice and “bath salts.”

I can hear the sighs from here; another emerging drug threat? Yet another trend to keep up with, and even more substances to worry about when it comes to our teens’ health and safety?

Many communities around the country are experiencing problems with several new synthetic drugs. I won’t go into great length about what these products are and what the effects of taking them are, as The Partnership at recently created an excellent parent kit on synthetics that gives details about these new substances and what you can do to prevent teens from using these drugs.

I will, however, tell you what they aren’t. While these products are typically marketed like incense, potpourri or bath salts (the kind that you actually use in a bathtub), they are not intended for this type of use. Upon closer examination, the packets clearly do not contain any of these products. Here in Northeast Wisconsin, law enforcement agencies have recently been encountering these synthetic cannabinoids in convenience stores, smoke shops and adult toy stores. The prices for these products range from about $19.95 to $39.95 for a small three-gram container. Clearly, most consumers would not purchase three grams of potpourri or spa bath salts for that amount of money. These prices are actually more in line with traditional drugs such as marijuana or cocaine. Another frightening thought: since they are marketed as incense, potpourri or bath salts, anyone – regardless of age –can purchase them. We have actually seen these products in convenience stores at the counter right next to candy bars!

In March of 2011, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) enacted an emergency measure to place several of the compounds commonly found in these synthetic drugs on the controlled substances schedule. Here in WI, a law was passed last July to ban these compounds, and many communities have followed with the passage of local ordinances. One thing we have learned is that the manufacturers of these substances will place stickers on their products or provide lab reports that their product does not contain any of the banned compounds, but investigations from across the state have shown that products seized have tested positive regardless of the letters or stickers.

What does this mean for you as parents?  It means that we need to work together to keep up on the current trends in substance abuse.  It is an ever changing world for us parents. Between texting, smart phones and hundreds of channels on television, life has changed for many of us!  Substances that are abused also change with the times. K2/Spice and “bath salts” have been an eye opener for not only myself, but many of my partners in law enforcement. The Wisconsin Crime Prevention Practitioners Association worked to create a drug bulletin highlighting these new threats to our youth. Law enforcement agencies across the country are taking steps like this to help their communities stay informed.

Stay educated, and remember to keep talking to the kids in your life about the dangers of these and other substances.


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